prime minister Manmohan Singh recently laid the foundation stone for a controversial hydroelectric project in Arunachal Pradesh. But the project has still not got clearance from the Union Ministry for Environment and Forests.
The move has surprised many as the stone-laying ceremony of the Rs 16,000 crore project--Dibang multi-purpose project--was done 600 km away from Lower Dibang Valley, where the project will come up on the river Dibang.
On January 31, the same day when Singh laid the stone, a public hearing for the project was to take place at Roing, the district headquarters of Lower Dibang Valley. The public hearing was cancelled because of bad weather.
It was scheduled for a second time after 98 per cent of the residents of Roing boycotted a hearing on January 29. Residents fear the project will eventually displace more than 12,000 Idu Mishmi tribal people living in the valley.
The prime minister's participation in the stone-laying ceremony has irked student groups and welfare organizations of the Idu Mishmi tribe. They groups have written to the prime minister informing him that the project lacks mandatory clearances.
Groups like the Downstream Anti-Dam Committee on Debang Multipurpose Project have called the inauguration "a forceful imposition of the will of the government." Many of Idu-Mishmi Students Union say the government kept the inauguration ceremony a secret affair fearing it would have led to more protests across the state.
"It seems strange that the prime minister agreed to inaugurate the project, even before the project was scrutinized by the expert appraisal committee on environment as well as the Forest Advisory Committee of the ministry," says Neeraj Vagholikar of Kalpavriksh, a Delhi-based environmental group.
Dulal Goswami, a hydrologist-based in Guwahati, also criticizes the inauguration and questioned why the mandatory norm set by the government had been violated.
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